Tesco threatens to ban John West Tuna because of its destructive fishing methods

S1032717Last October I posted the blog below under the heading “John West Tuna. Not what it says on the tin”.

Now Tesco has said it will ban John West tuna (apparently Britain’s most popular brand) unless it stops its detractive fishing practices – which I described in my earlier post.

Tesco is the first big supermarket to pledge to sell tuna caught only using sustainable methods (although Marks & Spencer doesn’t sell it on ethical grounds).

Most retailers including Tesco have banned the use of fish aggregation devices (FADs)  for their own-brand tuna preferring “pole and line” methods but still sell brands such as John West and Princes which refuse to commit to stop using FADs.

A Tesco spokesperson said it had decided to apply the same sustainable standards to all the tuna it sold.Tesco will allow brands sufficient time to meet these requirement but expect their plans to be ambitious, credible and publicly communicated”

Greenpeace said “Supermarkets have a responsibility for what’s on their shelves and not just what’s in their own-brand products so it’s great to see Tesco taking that seriously.”

John West’s response was “John West shares Tesco’s aspiration to increase the level of sustainable tuna available to consumers and, like Tesco, we recognise Marine Stewardship Council accreditation’s the best guarantee of sustainability. Our goal is that by 2018 all our seafood will be either MSC or Aquaculture Stewardship Council certified or engaged in an improvement project to bring up these standards

Well we’ll see. John West is owned by a Thai company which has been heavily criticised by both the USA and the EU. Do they worry about having the standards we expect of major corporations? I don’t think so but if they sense that they could lose market share or it will affect the bottom line then they might, reluctantly, take action.

Original post ———————–

John West, Britain’s biggest tuna supplier, has broken its promise that by the end of 2014 it would catch at least half of its British tuna by the pole-and-line method, a sustainable technique which reduces the risk of trapping other species in nets. It also said that by 2017 100% of its tuna would be caught by this sustainable method

In addition it promised to make every tin traceable (by tracking a bar code on each tin).

When it made the promise back in 2011 it said it wanted customers to have that information “because food safety and transparency is paramount to confidence“.

John West is actually owned by Thai Union Frozen which has secretly abandoned a commitment to stop using fishing methods which ensnare sharks and turtles. There is no information on the cans that tells customers how the fish are caught.

The EU isn’t happy with Thailand and issued a yellow card warning over illegal fishing and threatened to ban imports from the country unless it took swift action to improve “monitoring, control, and sanctioning systems“.

The Times had investigated the false claim and was told that John West “was amending the website copy to encourage anyone with a can of Thai tuna to e-mail us; we will then be able to provide full traceability details in a response e-mail”. The inability to trace the tins was merely a website limitation apparently!

Greenpeace says the Thai fishing industry has come in for a lot of criticism about fishing practices, labour rights, and human rights abuses – from both the EU and the USA.

And now celebrities such as Greta Scaachi and Gillian Anderson have joined in the criticism and called for a boycott unless the company reinstates its commitment to non-destructive fishing. The fish aggregation devices used attract sharks and turtles as well as other endangered species.

In response John West claims that more than 20% of its catch is by the sustainable pole-and-line method but most of that goes into supermarket own-brand tins.

A Greenpeace survey found only 2% of John West branded tins claimed to contain tuna caught by this method. John West said that labels on its tins declaring them safe for dolphins were regulated by the Earth Island Institute which it described as an internationally recognised NGO.

Of all the supermarkets only Marks and Spencer doesn’t stock John West tuna saying its does’t meet its ethical standards.

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3 thoughts on “Tesco threatens to ban John West Tuna because of its destructive fishing methods

  1. […] And M&S seemed to be the only company taking a stand against stocking John West tuna on ethical grounds. […]

  2. […] Species such as sea bass, whitebait, cod and king prawns could come from fisheries rated “avoid” by the MCS because of overfishing or significant bycatch of dolphins, sharks, seabirds and seals (See recent post on similar problems with John West tuna). […]

  3. […] Tesco threatened to pull its products last year and have recently re-confirmed that it would remove most of its products within weeks from its shelves. The supermarket said “it had decided to delist a number of core John West lines” after it reviewed its sustainable fishing policy. […]

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